Next stage organisations – leaving the safe harbour

[Note – this blog comes out of a workshop that was held in Bristol in June 2018. The event will be re-run in London on 10th October 2018 – click here for details]

We want to see flourishing lives on a flourishing planet.” This was the heartfelt desire expressed by one group of participants in an event we hosted in Bristol in June this year. It is surely something that any human being would echo.

Our modern institutions and organisations, however, seem incapable of delivering this. Their command and control structures, based on outdated views of what it means to be a human being, consistently drive us to unsustainable patterns of behaviour and provide unfulfilling places to work.   

The good news is that new approaches, rich in promise, are emerging: Teal, Agile, Sociocracy and B Corp and more. Companies that embrace them report significantly higher levels of efficiency, customer satisfaction and staff fulfilment.  However, individuals and organisations looking to embrace such new approaches report significant challenges, both at an organisational and individual level.

We created the Bristol event in order to provide a safe space for pioneers in this field to come together and explore these new ideas together. In particular we wanted to explore the implications of these new, human-centred approaches to work in terms of organisational structures and processes, as well as personal attitudes and beliefs.

The day was made up of a mixture of facilitated exercises, designed to encourage connection, sharing and learning. We finished off with an “Open Space” session to allow individuals to explore in small groups questions of particular interest to them.  

One of the questions the group looked at was “what are we trying to create and why?”. The answers reflected a shared desire for workplaces and organisations that allow each person to engage with our values and purpose, giving space for wholeheartedness and vulnerability, creating communities that inspire courage, all among an atmosphere of honesty and authenticity.  This will require, we believe, organisations that permit and encourage both greater autonomy and personal responsibility, and legal and organisational structures that align with and protect these human values.

So many questions were generated on the day that go beyond the how and the why of change, and delve into the details we need to examine and learn from in order to create meaningful and sustainable change in our organisations.  How do we really engage leadership? How do we bring along the sceptics? How can we manage conflicts that arise between our purpose and values and the demands of stakeholders? It was wonderful to have the opportunity to explore these questions with others and hear how we need more than the existing theories but chances to learn, share, critique and develop the practical skills and experience to drive change in our own workplaces and bring others along with us.

Whilst we are familiar with many theories and methodologies about what changes organisations need to make in order to respond to a changing world, what we most appreciated about the event was the chance to meet and learn from other people engaged in the daily struggle to change their organisation or workplace for the better. Beautiful theories can easily fade away when confronted with the reality of trying to change even just one other person, never mind yourself!  

The almost universally positive feedback we received from the event (one participant described it as an “awesome day“ ) confirmed our sense that there is a great need for such events. We will do more!

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Join us for our next workshop in London on 10th October 2018 – click here for details

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